Consumers are known to be willing to pay a premium for products with a celebrity name attached and the lesson has not been lost on the CBD industry in its use of influencers.
Influencers are paid-for advocates who recommend products on social media. The method is deplored in some circles but no one can doubt its effectiveness.
In 2019 the influencer marketing spend on Instagram alone is expected to hit $2.38bn – up from $1.6bn in 2018 – and is estimated to be worth between $5bn and $10bn by 2020 and CBD interests are not slow in pulling influential levers.
Because of the restrictions on selling CBD in certain jurisdictions, the industry has had to be very creative in its marketing, particularly in the use of influencers in the lifestyle bracket – beauty, skincare, wellness and sports medicine.
The celebrity endorsement or association is one means of attracting the target audience – such as England rugby’s George Kruis’s company fourfiveCBD, and there is the additional benefit of getting around online ad restrictions.
Some act for their own brands, including rapper Snoop Dogg and actress Whoopi Goldberg. Leafs By Snoop. None of them are psychoactive, insists Goldberg, who says: “This is not about getting women high.”
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Rapper Master P bought out Trees, a line of cannabis products that includes edibles and a “liquid gold” oil while Country singer Willie Nelson recently brought out a CBD coffee range. Martha Stewart is teaming up with Canadian company Canopy Growth to develop a range of CBD health products.
Meanwhile the online testimonies of stars such as Jennifer Aniston, Michael J. Fox and Morgan Freeman have proven especially valuable to the credibility of the entire sector.
According to CBD Intel, there is a second tier of the less famous, such as Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio who have given CBD a lift in public perception. Dabbing Granny, a US senior citizen, has 1m followers for her Instagram post. Famous actor, Seth Rogen, whose Twitter account has almost 8m followers, also promotes CBD.
The area of events has offered a rich seam for influencer behaviour. At January’s Golden Globes, it was reported that actor Michelle Williams takes a CBD brand called Lord Jones.
January saw promotional cannabis and CBD activity at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, including a lunch sponsored by Canadian investment company Canaccord Genuity Corp – covering cannabis-derived products including CBD – and an event at the Canada Cannabis House featuring Bruce Linton of Canopy Growth in conversation with Queen Diambi Kabatusuila Tshiyoyo Muata of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Meanwhile at the Canada Cannabis House Pavilion, Anthony Scaramucci, former White House press secretary, interviewed former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, chairman of medical marijuana company InterCure.
Beboe, the company which produces lifestyle CBD and cannabis products – also engage in influencer and celebrity gifting at awards shows like the Golden Globes and Coachella.
Not to be outdone by their rugby counterparts, ex-Kansas City Chiefs NFL running-back Christian Okoye endorses Kannaway CBD products, while another former NFL star Nick Lowery, Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Amy Van Dyken, strongman Eddie Hall and golfers Scott McCarron and Greg Norman all influence.
Even despite the obvious advantages, regulators are keen to tighten up the rules around influencing CBD.
Since last autumn, following work by the Competition and Markets Authority, an Influencer’s Guide has been published in the UK, giving direction as to the rules around social media advertising and making it clear that individuals cannot post sponsored content without disclosure.
An update of the Consumer Rights Act, it aims to clarify the status of social media recommendations so that paid-for promotion should be clearly identifiable as such.
Although subject to more scrutiny, the predictions are that the use of influencers is not going to slow down. Mainly because it is a low risk promotional tool.
CBD lends itself to the ideal use of influencers. There are many A and B list celebrities willing to vouch for it, and many events that facilitate influencing of the industry. The use of influencers doesn’t look like slowing down, as it is an ideal lever for CBD companies who must contend with stringent rules that make growing brand awareness more difficult than other consumer goods.